© 2022 Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

140 Lower Terrace
Buffalo, NY 14202

Mailing Address:
Horizons Plaza P.O. Box 1263
Buffalo, NY 14240-1263

Buffalo Toronto Public Media | Phone 716-845-7000
WBFO Newsroom | Phone: 716-845-7040
Your NPR Station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
All of us at Buffalo Toronto Public Media are heartbroken by the senseless tragedy that occurred in our great City on Saturday, May 14th. We are grieving with our community and are committed to helping it heal. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families, friends, and the employees and customers of Tops Friendly Markets.

Thousands of pounds of wings – and hopefully Bill Murray – headed for Buffalo's wing fest

Avery Schneider
Drew Cerza bought the iconic National Buffalo Wing Festival inflatable arch 16 years ago. It's stood the test of time ever since.

For a decade and a half, people have been pouring through the gates of Buffalo’s downtown ballpark on Labor Day weekend. They come hungry for wings, and leave happily satisfied. It’s been a long and successful ride for the National Buffalo Wing Festival, and it all began with a movie.

2001’s Osmosis Jones is a half live-action, half-animated movie that features comedian Bill Murray as a junk-food eating zookeeper named Frank Detorre, who is determined to go to the Buffalo Wing Festival.

Credit Warner Brothers Pictures
Warner Brothers Pictures
Osmosis Jones movie poster

“99 kinds of wings, 128 different dipping sauces,” Frank exclaimed to his daughter, played by Elena Franklin. “You love math. Crunch the numbers on that and tell me the possibilities aren’t infinite!”

But here’s the thing – the festival didn’t actually exist back then.

“Ironically enough, we didn’t have a Buffalo Wing Festival,” recalled festival founder Drew Cerza. It was long before he was known as Buffalo’s “Wing King.”

“So Don Esmonde from the Buffalo News wrote an article, ‘Why don’t we do one?’ I decided to put it together. I was a food promoter, but I never ran festivals or events. I just figured it out as I went along.”

Esmonde’s article came out the same August day that Osmosis Jones made its U.S. debut. Less than one year later, he’d write another article announcing the inaugural National Buffalo Wing Festival.

Here's a recap of the last 15 years: over 900,000 visitors, more than $325,000 raised for local charity, and 4.6 million wings consumed. And while the wing fest has been an ever-growing hit, there’s one achievement Cerza is still dreaming of: that the festival’s muse – Mr. Bill Murray, himself – will make an appearance. In 15 years, it hasn’t happened – but not for lack of trying.

Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News
"Wing King" Drew Cerza under his festival archway with the food that Buffalo is known for.

“We tried it,” proclaimed Cerza. “You can’t reach out, you can try to reach out to Bill Murray, but you just can’t get to him. But Don Esmonde went to a baseball game in Charleston, South Carolina this past year, was in the gift shop, and Bill Murray was there because he [co-owns] the team. He got a chance to talk to him about the wing fest and personally invited him.”

That invitation was extended about two months ago, but whether or not it works is up in the air.

“I’m not hoping he shows up, I’m praying every night before I go to bed that he shows up,” said Cerza. “It is my goal. If he shows up, I can throw down the mic and walk off the stage…done.”

So maybe 2017 will be the year. But until we find out, Buffalo is waiting on Bill Murray.

Related Content